Texas A&M Football: Top 10 Performers in the Aggies' Spring Game
The Texas A&M football team completed their spring season with the Maroon & White Game on April 13. There were multiple players who stood out during the final scrimmage of the spring.
Spring practice is a time for the coaches to get an idea of who will help them in the fall. College football coaches constantly have to replace the seniors from the season before. The 15 practices during the spring help ease the transition for the backups to become starters.
The Aggies lost 11 starters from the 2012 squad. At least half of those starters are going to be drafted into the NFL. Obviously there are some big holes to fill on the 2013 squad.
The 2013 spring practices and spring game were the first step for many players to being to fill those holes. Now those players have to focus on the offseason weight program and player-led practices during the summer.
This is a look at some of the players who stood out during the Maroon & White Game and should be standouts for the Ags in the fall.
It goes without saying that if there is a football game going on and Aggie quarterback Johnny Manziel is playing in it, then he is going to stand out in a good way. Manziel is simply the best player on the field every time he steps on a college field.
Manziel dazzled the crowd with his ability to elude defenders while completing 24-of-30 passes for 303 yards and three touchdowns. He completed 80 percent of his pass attempts, and the receivers dropped two passes that should have been receptions.
Manziel made a concerted effort to stay in the pocket and did not attempt to scramble much. He rushed for 18 yards on three carries while wearing a black jersey which meant he was not to be tackled.
In 2011, Case Keenum passed for over 5,000 yards in Kevin Sumlin's offense. The Aggies have too much running back depth to attempt that many passes in 2013, but 4,000 yards passing is not out of question for Manziel. He appears poised for a tremendous sophomore season.
Brett Wade is a 6'2", 220-pound linebacker from Kennedale High School (Texas) who is an early enrollee at Texas A&M. He saw extensive action at outside linebacker during the Maroon & White Game.
Wade was very impressive playing on the second team defense. The athletic department did not release defensive statistics for the game, but Wade was in on at least four tackles with a pass broken up.
Both Wade and fellow early enrollee Reggie Chevis looked very solid at linebacker. Wade looked very good in coverage. It is a credit to the Aggies' new linebacker coach Mark Hagen that the game did not appear too big or too fast to Wade.
The freshman outside linebacker will likely see playing time in 2013. He looks played like someone who can step in an help the defense immediately in the fall.
Trey Williams led all rushers in the Maroon & White Game with 67 yards on seven carries. He had one rushing touchdown and added 24 yards on two receptions.
The rising sophomore running back from Spring, Texas appears to be completely healed from the sports hernia surgery that kept him out of the first could weeks of spring practice. Williams showed tremendous burst around the edge.
Williams had a 30-yard touchdown run against Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, and appeared to pick up where he left off against the Sooners. He is a big play waiting to happen.
With Williams and Manziel in the same backfield, the Ags have two players who are a threat to take it the distance on any play. They are both guys who can outrun whatever scheme the defense is in.
Ed Pope had a breakout performance during the Maroon & White Game. The redshirt freshman wide receiver from Carthage, Texas looks poised to claim a starting spot at outside receiver.
Pope caught five passes for 45 yards including a 13-yard touchdown pass. He used his 6'4" frame to out-leap defenders and go up and get the ball. Pope caught every pass with his hands, away from his body.
The thought of lining up the 6'4" Pope across from the 6'5" Mike Evans has to make offensive coordinator Clarence McKinney giddy with anticipation. With Evans, Pope, newcomer JaQuay Williams and incoming freshman Ricky Seals-Jones, the Aggies will have height in their wide receiver corps that no secondary in the nation can match up with.
LeKendrick "Beep Beep" Williams led all receivers during the Maroon & White Game with seven receptions for 105 yards. Williams saw limited action at slot receiver in 2012. He finished the season with five receptions for 116 yards and two touchdowns.
Williams is only 5'9", so he is limited to playing the slot position. He is one of the fastest players on the team, which he displayed on an 80-yard touchdown catch and run against Sam Houston State in 2012.
Williams caught passes from both Johnny Manziel and Matt Joeckel during the scrimmage. He proved to the coaches that he can be counted on to be a playmaker from the slot position. He should be one of the starters at slot wide receiver when the Ags take the field against Rice on August 31.
Donnie Baggs had a very solid performance at the Maroon & White Game. The rising junior has settled in nicely at middle linebacker after moving over from the weak-side spot he played in 2012.
Baggs was a backup for most of 2012 who started one game against Louisiana Tech. He finished the year with 27 tackles including 1.5 sacks and an interception.
Baggs had at least three tackles from the middle linebacker spot in the spring game. He is a speed upgrade at the position from 2012 starter Jonathan Stewart. Baggs should be much more effective in coverage than Stewart was.
With Baggs playing well in the middle and Steven Jenkins returning at weak-side linebacker, the Ags should be solid at linebacker in 2013.
Please note that since no defensive statistics were provided for the Maroon & White Game, all listed statistics were from the author's observation while at the game.
Tyrell Taylor is competing for a starting spot at the weak-side defensive end position on the defensive line. Taylor is a big undersized at a listed 6'3" and 230 pounds.
He has a great first step and is an effective pass rusher. Taylor had two sacks during the Maroon & White Game. In spot duty in 2012, he tallied 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack.
Taylor has the speed to be a very good pass rusher in the Southeastern Conference. The question is whether he can hold up against the run.
The Aggies have played three scrimmages during the spring, and Taylor has tallied five total sacks in the three scrimmages. He has proven to the coaching staff that he can get to the quarterback, and at a minimum should see a lot of action during passing downs in 2013.
Brandon Williams is a redshirt sophomore running back who sat out the 2012 season after transferring to A&M from Oklahoma. Williams has been a star in practice ever since setting foot in Aggieland.
Williams had 59 yards on seven carries in the Maroon & White Game. He scored one touchdown rushing and one receiving. Williams may have had the play of the game when he caught a swing pass to the right, cut back against the grain and then ran left and beat the entire defense to the pylon to score on a 10-yard reception.
The big question for Williams now is whether he can do it in games. He struggled to hold onto the ball as a freshman at Oklahoma. If he can hold onto the ball in the fall, he could be an All-Conference level performer to the Aggies.
Derel Walker is a rising senior wide receiver who brought into the program in 2012 because there were concerns that Ryan Swope was going to declare early for the NFL draft. Swope stayed and Walker was a backup in 2012.
Walker spent much of 2012 trying to make the adjustment from junior college to FBS football. He tallied eight catches for 85 yards.
Walker almost surpassed those numbers in the Maroon & White Game. He had five catches for 79 yards and was a difference maker on the field.
Walker and Edward Pope will fight it out in the Fall for the starting spot opposite Mike Evans at outside receiver. No matter who wins the competition, the other receiver will offer the Ags the luxury of tremendous depth at the position.
The Aggies had two returning All-Americans on the field at the Maroon & White Game. One was Johnny Manziel under center, and the other was protecting his blind side in Jake Matthews at left tackle.
Matthews is making the switch from right tackle where he played in 2012. He was dominant during the scrimmage to the point where you did not notice he was there.
He simply engulfed whatever defensive end he was facing and went about his business. Matthews is poised for an All-American season at left tackle in 2013 and should graduate as one of the best offensive linemen to ever put on an Aggie uniform.